U.N. warns of starvation and ‘epidemic diseases’ in Gaza amid intense combat

‘The clock is really ticking’: Desperation mounts for starving Palestinians

As goods become increasingly scarce and expensive, World Food Programme Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau reiterated calls for a cease-fire and the opening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing to help scale up aid deliveries in Gaza.

“There’s a lot of tension around food. People are so desperate,” Skau told NBC News. “I went to distribution points where there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people waiting in queues, and there’s anger and frustration.”

It’s unclear how long order can be sustained when so much of Gaza’s population is starving. Aid trucks that do manage to get through the Rafah crossing aren’t able to meet the need, Skau said. The food crisis comes on top of the operational challenges that are waiting other on the side.

Skau said that during his recent visit to the Palestinian enclave, he spoke to people who hadn’t eaten in days.

“If this further deteriorates, you know, people will have nothing, and you can just imagine the desperation that we will have in our hands then if we’re not even able to deliver what we are delivering at the moment,” Skau said. “And I think, you know, the clock is really ticking.”

Released hostages from Kfar Aza mark bittersweet Hanukkah as others remain captive

SHEFAYIM, Israel — In the days since they were released, dozens of women and children relinquished by Hamas in last month’s landmark hostage deal have begun to return to everyday life — but with their communities forever marked by a day of violence when friends and loved ones were killed or taken captive, some say their freedom has felt bittersweet.

“We lost such precious people. We knew them all. We will always remember them all,” said Agam Goldstein-Almog, who was released in the hostage deal alongside two of her siblings and her mother, Chen Goldstein-Almog. Chen’s husband, Nadav, and eldest daughter, Yam, were killed in Hamas’ attack.

Agam Goldstein-Almog, who was released in the hostage deal alongside her mother, Chen Goldstein-Almog, speaks at a Hanukkah event in Shefayim, Israel.
Agam Goldstein-Almog, who was released in the hostage deal alongside her mother, Chen Goldstein-Almog, speaks at a Hanukkah event in Shefayim, Israel. Chantal Da Silva

Speaking at a Hanukkah gathering in Shefayim in central Israel, where dozens of residents from Kfar Aza have been given temporary housing after their kibbutz was devastated in Hamas’ attack, Agam told her neighbors: “It will take us a long time to understand what happened when we were gone and all the moves you made to bring us back.” In a message to those who remain in Hamas’ grasp, she said: “We will do everything for you to come back. There is no other option.”

In an interview with NBC News’ Hallie Jackson at the gathering, Avihai Brodutch, whose wife and three young children were also released in the hostage agreement, said it felt “just amazing” to be reunited as a family. “We wake up in the morning, and this is all a new life again, and we have breakfast together, and, you know, we brush our teeth together. We’re all in the same room right now, so it’s really great,” he said.

Avihai Brodutch beamed as he expressed his relief at seeing his wife and three children released.
Avihai Brodutch beamed as he expressed his relief at seeing his wife and three children released.Chantal Da Silva

Now, Brodutch said, the family is focused on “rebuilding our lives,” and he said he hoped others would have the chance to do the same — on both sides of the Israel-Gaza border. “We wish this is the end of it,” he said. “We want families, you know, this is Palestinian families and Israelis. … We just want families to be together. This is all we want.”

Gazans wait days for food as prices for the basic goods soar

The price of dwindling food in Gaza has soared. Abdulsalam al-Majdalawi said he had come every day for nearly two weeks to a U.N. distribution center, hoping to get supplies for his family of seven.

“Every day, we spend five or six hours here and return home” empty-handed, he said. “Thank God, today they drew our name.”

One hundred trucks with humanitarian aid entered today, said Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority. That’s far short of what’s needed.

With the war in its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,900, the majority women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

IDF spokesperson: Palestinian men stripped to their underwear for security reasons

IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari addressed images that circulated on social media last week of dozens of Palestinian men seen stripped to their underwear, blindfolded and forced to kneel after they were detained in Gaza.

“It’s something we have been doing for years during battle because we have had incidents when people have detonated themselves upon our forces, so this is part of the process,” Hagari said at a briefing today.

Hani Almadhoun, who lives in Washington, D.C., said that his brother and nephews — one as young as 13 — were detained and that he recognized two of them in released video. He said his family members had nothing to do with Hamas and were released after 24 hours, after what they described to him as a humiliating experience.

The images drew concern from humanitarian groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organization. Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, called the video of the detainees “very concerning” at a briefing with reporters last week, invoking “a basic right to human dignity.”

Images from social media appear to show Israeli forces detaining dozens of stripped men in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza.
Images from social media appear to show Israeli forces detaining dozens of stripped men in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza.Obtained by NBC News

Qatar foreign minister says there is ‘not the same willingness’ on hostage negotiations

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said the country was still trying to move things forward for hostage release negotiations despite a break down in talks.

“We are committed to have all of the hostages being released, but also we are committed to stop this war and to stop the bombardment of the Palestinians,” Al Thani said during a panel at the Doha Forum today. “It always takes two parties to be willing to such an engagement. Unfortunately, we are not seeing the same willingness that we had seen in the weeks before.”

The country’s official foreign ministry X account posted clips of Al Thani’s comments, in which the minister repeated a determined stance to push forward on diplomacy.

“At the end, we know that the resolution will only come through the table,” he said. “Right now maybe the offerings are narrower than where we were before the last pause, yet there was still an opening.”

Doctors reportedly being detained en masse in Gaza, founder of Gaza Medic Voices says

Dr. Omar Abdel-Mannan, the founder of the Instagram account Gaza Medic Voices, told Sky News that there are reports that doctors are being detained “en masse.”

“It’s been increasingly hard to get in touch with the doctors and the health care workers on the ground … but the messages that are coming through are grimmer and grimmer by the day,” said Abdel-Mannan, who added that Israel has detained his friends and colleagues. Abdel-Mannan uses Gaza Medic Voices to post anonymized firsthand accounts from medics in Gaza.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said yesterday that 36 health personnel were detained by Israel and called on international organizations to demand their release. NBC News has not independently verified the allegation, and the IDF did not immediately comment on the matter.

“It’s very easy to blame Hamas all the time. … You have a duty as a government and as a military to actually make sure the well-being of civilians is [maintained],” Abdel-Mannan said.

J Street: Israel’s war conduct not aligned with Jewish values

How Israel’s government is conducting its war in Gaza is not in line with the values of the Jewish community, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi today.

In discussions over calls for a cease-fire among many Jewish Americans, Ben-Ami said, younger generations “have a very deep commitment to justice” that has shaped their view.”They understand oppression; they want to fight against oppression,” he said. “And what happens on a daily basis between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people that it rules over without providing them with equal rights is something that this generation, younger generation of Jewish Americans, is very committed to fighting to correct.”

WHO executive board adopts resolution on humanitarian crisis in Gaza

The World Health Organization’s executive board unanimously adopted a resolution calling for “immediate, sustained and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief” in Gaza at today’s special session.

In addition to the sustained relief efforts, the resolution demanded the warring parties follow “their obligations under international law.” That was the first resolution to be adopted by consensus on the conflict within the United Nations’ structure since Oct. 7, the WHO said in a news release.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the resolution is “only a starting point.”

“Without a cease-fire, there is no peace,” he said. “And without peace, there is no health. I urge all member states, especially those with the most influence, to work with urgency to bring an end to this conflict as soon as possible.”

Shelling damages U.N. watchtower in southern Lebanon

A watchtower belonging to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon was damaged by shelling in southern Lebanon yesterday afternoon, the agency’s spokesperson, Andrea Tenenti, said in a statement.

Tenenti said that no one was injured in the incident and that the source of the shelling was under investigation.

“Any targeting of UNIFIL positions and any use of the vicinity of our positions to launch attacks across the Blue Line is unacceptable,” Tenenti said. “Attacks against civilians or U.N. personnel are violations of international law.”

Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire across the border for weeks, including today, when the IDF said its soldiers were injured in an aerial attack that originated from Lebanon. The IDF accused Hezbollah of launching at least one rocket toward Israel from a site “20 meters away from a United Nations compound.” NBC News has not independently verified the claim.

Jordanian foreign minister says Israel is fighting ‘a war that cannot be won’

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Israel has defied everyone, including its own allies, in conducting its war in Gaza with a “degree of brutality.”

Safadi made the remarks at a panel at the 2023 Doha Forum, where he was speaking as part of the “What Now for the Middle East?” session today. CNN’s Becky Anderson, who moderated the panel, posted a clip to X of Safadi saying the war was hurting Israel.

“Israel has created an amount of hatred that will haunt this region, that will define generations to come,” Safadi said. “And therefore, it’s hurting its own people as much as it’s hurting everybody else in the region. This is a war that cannot be won. Israel has already suffered a strategic defeat.”

27 injured Palestinians brought into Egypt, Red Crescent says

More than two dozen Palestinians were transferred into Egypt to receive medical care following Israeli bombardment in Gaza, according to Dr. Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in North Sinai.

Zayed said that 27 Palestinians, accompanied by family members, were taken to Al-Arish General Hospital this afternoon for treatment. He also added that dozens of trucks containing aid were lined up at the Rafah crossing waiting to enter Gaza.

Of those trucks, seven fuel and gas trucks were also standing by.

Israel says it foiled Iranian plans to attack Israeli targets in Cyprus

TEL AVIV — Mossad and local authorities in Cyprus thwarted an “Iranian terrorist infrastructure” that had planned to carry out attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets in Cyprus, according to a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

The statement said that “considerable information was obtained” regarding a potential threat in Cyprus, where Israel says many of its citizens decamped after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. Netanyahu’s office did not provide additional details on the threat.

A senior Cyprus official declined to comment to Reuters on the matter, citing policy on issues concerning national security.

White House will get more involved in Israel and Ukraine aid negotiations this week, says Sen. Murphy

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the lead Democratic negotiator on a high-priority Ukraine and Israel aid package, said Sunday that the White House will get more involved in negotiations this week.

In an interview on “Meet the Press,” Murphy said: “I think the White House is going to get more engaged this week.”

“Of course, when you’re talking about something as complicated as border security, you need the White House engaged, because you need to know whether they’re gonna sign the bill, and you need to understand how the changes you’re making are going to be implemented at the border. So they are, and they will get more engaged,” Murphy said.

He stressed that “we are not going to put Donald Trump’s immigration policies into statute” as he spoke about the battle over the border provisions of the aid bill, which failed to pass the Senate last week.

In a 49-51 vote along party lines, the Senate failed to advance Biden’s national security package on foreign aid to Israel and Ukraine. Republicans were displeased that the bill lacked the immigration policy changes that they had demanded as a condition for their support.

Murphy said there are too many people crossing the southern border, but a resolution is possible if Republicans can get onboard with letting people into the country “who are legitimately fleeing terror and torture and violence.”

Asked by host Kristen Welker if an additional $60 billion in Ukraine aid could change the outcome of its war with Russia, Murphy said he believes it would.

“Because at the very same time that we are making a renewed commitment to Ukraine, Russia’s ability to continue to fight this war is in jeopardy,” he said. “Russia is going to have a hard time coming up with resources necessary to keep this fight going. … In the end, will there likely have to be a negotiated solution? Absolutely. But if we cut off Ukraine now, the outcome is certain.”

Hostages will only be released through exchanges, Hamas declares

A spokesperson for Hamas said today that the group will only release hostages through exchange agreements, as was the case when more than 100 hostages were freed in a temporary truce agreed upon last month.

Israel cannot have its hostages without abiding by “the conditions of resistance,” Hamas’ spokesperson said.

An estimated 137 people are still being held hostage in Gaza, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. During the weeklong truce deal, Hamas released 81 Israelis and 24 foreign nationals in exchange for the release of 240 imprisoned Palestinians.

Israeli officials withdrew from hostage negotiation talks in Doha, Qatar, earlier this month at the behest of Netanyahu, alleging that Hamas did not live up to its end of the bargain. Hamas blamed Israel for the breakdown in negotiations.

Israel targets field hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza Health Ministry says

The Jordanian field hospital in Khan Younis was damaged after it was struck by a missile, the Gaza Health Ministry said today.

NBC News could not independently verify this report. No injuries or deaths have been reported.

The attack comes as Israel says it has stepped up fighting in Gaza’s south, with an intensified campaign in the second largest city.

The field hospital is one of two such facilities established by the Jordanian government in November in response to the ongoing bombardment of Gaza.

Hunger, thirst and chaos in southern Gaza as hostilities drive humanitarian aid to the brink of collapse

Twelve-year-old Do’a Atef spends her days knocking on doors begging for food, or gathering firewood from a dusty hill near a refugee camp outside Rafah, in southern Gaza, to cook the few tomatoes and peppers given to her by strangers.

Do’a told NBC News that she was displaced from her home in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, along with her parents and seven siblings, and they are now sleeping in tents. They are so thirsty, “we drink dirty water,” she said. “My siblings are crying all day.”

They couldn’t find flour, they were cold, there was no bathroom for them to use, no diapers for her baby brother, and no milk to give him. Two months ago, Do’a said, she used to read in school and play with her friends. “Now, all we do is bring firewood and walk barefoot.”

Do’a’s situation underscores a bleak reality for many in Gaza, as the Israeli military’s ground invasion and aerial bombardment continues, displacing an estimated 1.9 million Palestinians into shrinking “humanitarian zones,” mostly in southern Gaza. A dire food and water shortage is putting many at risk of infection and death, according to humanitarian aid groups that stressed difficulties in delivering aid due to the intensity of hostilities.

Read the full story here.

133 UNRWA workers and their families killed in Gaza so far

Workers for the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency “take their children to work so they know they are safe, or can die together,” the organization said on X yesterday.

It added that the situation in the strip was reaching a “point of no return.”

So far, 133 UNRWA workers have been killed in bombardments on the besieged strip alongside their families, it said.

20 hostages have died in Hamas captivity, Israel says

Twenty Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza have been killed, according to an update from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

The statement said the number of hostages held in Gaza is 137, including those who were captured before Oct. 7.

Hamas is still in possession of the bodies of the hostages who were killed, the statement said.

An attempt by the Israel Defense Forces to conduct a rescue operation for the remaining hostages on Thursday was unsuccessful, it added. Two IDF soldiers were injured.

NBC News has been unable to independently verify these claims. Hamas captured approximately 240 Israelis during its incursion into the country in early October, and has released 110 so far.

Half of households in Gaza are starving

A rapid food security assessment conducted in Gaza by the World Food Programme during the brief truce between Hamas and Israel found severe hunger in 36% of households and moderate hunger in 52%, according to a flash update from the U.N. on Saturday.

91% of households go to bed hungry, according to the assessment, which sampled 399 households in Gaza. 63% of respondents reported enduring entire days without food.

The food scarcity situation is worse in the north than in the south, according to the update. Aid is concentrated in the south of the strip, where it is received through the border with Egypt at the Rafah crossing.

Shortages of cooking gas have prompted the use of firewood and the burning of waste for cooking, raising the risk of respiratory illnesses, the update said.

Gaza’s society is on the “brink of full-blown collapse,” the statement said, with U.N. vehicles being stoned and looted amid massive shortages in supplies and the inability of humanitarian aid agencies to deliver timely, sufficient assistance.

Photo: Mourners collect the dead

Image: Displaced Palestinians Forced Further South On Gaza Strip As Israel Intensifies Military Offensive
Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

People mourn as they collect the bodies of those killed in a bombing today in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

Soldiers injured after aerial targets cross from Lebanon, IDF says

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement today that two soldiers were “moderately injured and a number of additional soldiers were lightly injured from shrapnel and smoke inhalation” after it intercepted two aerial targets that crossed from Lebanon.

The statement added that Israeli fighter jets also “completed an extensive series of strikes” on targets belonging to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah inside Lebanon.

“Among the targets struck were terrorist infrastructure, launchers, and military compounds belonging to the Hezbollah terrorist organization,” it said.

It added that the Israeli soldiers “were evacuated to the hospital to receive medical treatment, and their families have been notified.”

There are ‘worrying signals of epidemic diseases’ in Gaza, WHO chief says

There are “worrying signals of epidemic diseases” in Gaza as Israel presses into the south of the enclave, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a speech today.

Addressing a special session of the WHO’s executive board, Tedros said the “ideal conditions” were being created for disease to spread in the enclave as more people move to a smaller area where they lack adequate food, water, shelter and sanitation.

“On average, there is one shower unit for every 700 people, and one toilet for every 150 people,” he said, adding there were “worrying signals of epidemic diseases including bloody diarrhea and jaundice, and there have also been reports of high levels of diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections.”

Tedros said that Gaza’s health system was “on its knees and collapsing,” only 14 hospitals out of the original 36 were “partially functional,” and “two-thirds of primary health care centers are nonfunctional.”

Dehumanization of Palestinians is enabling Israeli attacks, UNRWA chief says

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, described the Gaza Strip as “hell on earth” as he reiterated calls for a humanitarian cease-fire during today’s Doha Forum conference in Qatar.

Lazzarini added that the dehumanization of Palestinians has allowed the international community to tolerate Israel’s continued attacks on Gaza.

His statement added to strong condemnation of the international community by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who said today that the war was undermining the credibility of the Security Council.

Fighting in the south intensifies, focuses on Khan Younis

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement today that ground, aerial and naval units continued to strike Gaza overnight and into this morning, striking 250 targets.

IDF troops have targeted underground tunnel shafts in Khan Younis and used drones against “terrorist cells that planned to attack additional IDF troops in the area,” the statement said. The air force struck “terror infrastructure” overnight, it added.

Khan Younis residents told Reuters that tanks had reached the main north-south road through the city center after intense combat through the night that had slowed the Israeli advance from the east. Warplanes were pounding the area west of the assault.

1.9 million Gazans are estimated to have been internally displaced to the strip’s south since the beginning of Israel’s campaign on Oct. 7. Khan Younis is a major city in southern Gaza, and the second largest in the entire coastal enclave.

Netanyahu ‘strongly criticizes’ Russia’s cooperation with Iran in call with Putin

The office of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement today that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the war with Hamas and the situation in the region.

Netanyahu “strongly criticized the dangerous cooperation between Russia and Iran,” the statement said, adding that he “emphasized that any country that would suffer a criminal terrorist attack such as Israel experienced would act with no less force than the force which Israel operates.”

Netanyahu also “requested that Russia put pressure on the Red Cross to perform visits and supply medicine” for the hostages held by Hamas, the statement said.

Photos: Injured Palestinians arrive at Nasser Hospital

Two men arrive at Nasser Medical Hospital after being injured in a bombing today. Israel is intensifying its military assault on the southern city.

Image: Displaced Palestinians Forced Further South On Gaza Strip As Israel Intensifies Military Offensive
Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images
Image: Displaced Palestinians Forced Further South On Gaza Strip As Israel Intensifies Military Offensive
Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Entire generation at risk of becoming radicalized because of Gaza war, Qatari PM says

An entire generation in the Middle East is at risk of becoming radicalized because of the war in Gaza, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said today.

Speaking at the Doha Forum conference in Qatar, he said his country will continue to pressure Israel and Hamas for a truce despite “narrowing” chances.

He added hostages were released from Gaza because of negotiations and not because of Israeli military actions.

Israel raises flag in central Gaza square

An Israeli flag was raised amid the rubble of Palestine Square in Gaza City on Thursday, according to a video filmed by an Israeli photographer. NBC News has geolocated the footage.

Footage of the square released Thursday shows Israel’s flag flying over a mound, with the square surrounded by IDF tanks. The buildings around the central plaza appeared destroyed, either reduced to rubble or showing significant structural damage.

The act is of symbolic importance in Gaza. Palestine Square was a bustling center surrounded by shops, a market, a hospital and cafes. Amid the mass evacuations of the war, Palestinians have feared their displacement from their land could become permanent.

U.N. secretary-general ‘will not give up’ cease-fire calls

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said today that he “will not give up” appealing for a cease-fire in Gaza, adding that the war was undermining the credibility and authority of the United Nations Security Council, whose mandate is to maintain international peace and security.

Speaking at the Doha Forum conference in Qatar, Guterres said he urged the Security Council to “press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and I reiterated my appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire to be declared.”

“Regrettably, the Security Council failed to do it, but that does not make it less necessary,” he said.

“I will not give up,” Guterres added.

Solutions discussed for Gaza’s future range from workarounds to the catastrophic

Gaza Rafah Rubble
A man walks among the rubble of a building, destroyed by an Israeli strike in Rafa, southern Gaza, on Dec. 7.Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

Gaza is in ruins, with Israeli forces laying siege to the entire strip and leveling swaths of the enclave. An estimated 80% of its population of 2.2 million has been displaced — the majority now trapped in the south, increasingly pressed toward the Rafah border with Egypt.

Palestinians in Gaza say life has become a cruel choice between death and displacement. Yet an urgent question persists: What will Gaza’s future be after this war ends?

Several experts told NBC News that options being discussed by diplomats and officials range from workaround solutions, which ignore long-standing failures, to the catastrophic.

Read the full story here.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the U.S. in a video statement for blocking a cease-fire resolution at the U.N. Security Council yesterday, and said Israel’s war against Hamas would continue.

The U.S. vetoed the resolution by the United Arab Emirates, which would have urged for an immediate cease-fire.

Robert Wood, U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said after the vote that the resolution called for a “unsustainable ceasefire that will only plant the seeds for the next war.”

The United Kingdom abstained from the vote, saying it could not vote for a resolution that doesn’t condemn Hamas’ actions on Oct. 7.

Video shows devastation in Gaza, damage as people carry belongings through debris

A video released by UNICEF shows the devastation and damage in Gaza as a result of heavy Israeli bombardment.

Buildings in Khan Younis, Gaza’s main southern city, can be seen reduced to rubble in the background as people carry belongings through the debris.

In another part of the video, people are seen living in tent camps, where laundry is hung on clotheslines, and crowded streets are packed with cars loaded with belongings. At a hospital, a 3-year-old boy who lost his leg sits on a bed.

In a video posted to his Instagram, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder walks down a street as a group of people ride in a cart alongside him.

“I was in Ukraine when families just like these were forced to flee, and the world opened its heart to them,” Elder said in the video. “I do not understand now why the world has closed its eyes.”

Israel has ordered residents out of the center of Khan Younis and pounded the length of the enclave.

Israel’s Arabic-language spokesperson posted a map on X highlighting six numbered blocks of Khan Younis that residents were told to evacuate “urgently.” They included parts of the city center that had not been subject to such orders before.

Since a truce collapsed last week, Israel has expanded its ground assault into the southern half of the Gaza Strip by pushing into Khan Younis. Simultaneously, both sides have reported a surge in fighting in the north.

An official toll of all deaths in Gaza compiled by the Palestinian health ministry in the Hamas-run enclave exceeded 17,700 on Saturday, with many thousands more missing and presumed dead under the rubble. The ministry has previously said about 40% of deaths were of children under 18.